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Are you facing homelessness?

If you are homeless or facing homelessness, you should contact the Housing Options team for advice and assistance.

All local authorities must provide or secure the provision of a service to provide, information and advice to help prevent homelessness; secure accommodation when homeless or likely to become homeless and help households gain access to other services which they may need.

In Spelthorne, the Council provides this service that not only means explaining your rights under the law on homelessness, it also includes advice on your housing options, such as how to join the housing register, and how other organisations can help you with needs that may affect your housing. Other agencies that you may be referred to are Citizens Advice, floating support providers, Adult or Children's Social Care and mental health services amongst others.

If you are threatened with homelessness within 56 days, Spelthorne Borough Council (SBC) will provide a service tailored to your needs, which will be assessed at a Housing Options Assessment. Following the assessment you will be given a Personal Housing Plan with steps that both yourself, the Council and other identified agencies are going to follow to enable you to either keep your current housing or access alternative accommodation.

If your household fits into one of the following categories it may be that there are other specific actions that the Council can take to help with this;

  • people leaving prison or youth detention accommodation
  • young people leaving care
  • people leaving the regular armed forces
  • people leaving hospital after medical treatment for physical injury or illness or mental illness or disorder as an inpatient
  • people fleeing domestic violence
  • people receiving mental health services in the community

These actions may involve us visiting you in prison or hospital to assess your needs before you leave. It may also involve accessing specific help with other professional agencies that you are dealing with such as welfare officers within the armed forces, or care co-coordinators within mental health services. Whatever your situation, please contact us so that we can discuss your housing situation and individual needs and how best to proceed.

How to make initial enquiries

Please contact the Housing Options team.

The Housing Options Officer will provide basic advice over the telephone, and advise you if you need to come and see us. If this is the case, we can make an appointment for you. Appointments are available across the week. Whilst there may be a short wait for an appointment, we will always seek to prioritise your case depending on the urgency of your situation.

If you have nowhere to stay and the offices are closed, please call our emergency out of hours on 01784 451499.

If you have any of these documents, you must bring them with you so that we can accurately assess your situation:

  • notice to quit
  • mortgage details and associated correspondence
  • court papers
  • passport or other proof that you are entitled to live in England
  • pregnancy certificate
  • proof of where you have lived during the last five years
  • your tenancy agreement

What we may be able to do to help you if you are at risk of homelessness - The Prevention Duty

The Council will consider the information you have provided to establish your situation. The first step will be a Housing Options Assessment so that we can understand your situation and any areas of support that you may require. A 56 day Prevention Duty may be triggered, which will mean that the Council will try for 56 days to prevent you from becoming homeless. Prevention could be attempted through negotiation with your landlord or mortgage company; supporting you to resolve any financial problems that you may be facing; or helping you find alternative accommodation. You will be given a Personal Housing Plan which identifies actions for both you, the Council and other agencies to take to attempt to prevent your homelessness. You will be able to access your Personal Housing Plan online and keep in touch with your case worker electronically.

What we may be able to do to help you if you are already homelessness - The Relief Duty

If you come to us already homeless, or if your homelessness has not been prevented by the end of the Prevention Duty, then the Council may be under a 56 day Relief Duty to you. This means that the Council will try for 56 days to relieve your homelessness. This will normally be done by supporting you to find alternative accommodation in the private sector, which has a reasonable prospect of lasting at least six months.

If you refuse any accommodation which is found for you, we may have no further duty to help you.

Where you do not have a local connection with Spelthorne, then we will be referring you to a local authority where you do hold a local connection, for them to fulfil the Relief Duty and we will ultimately close your case.

A local connection with a particular area means that you:

  • have family associations in that area
  • normally live there by choice and have done so for at least six months out of the past twelve months, or three years out of the last five years
  • work there

Living in armed forces accommodation or staying in a hospital or any place that is not your home, but that you only occupy in order to receive some kind or care or support, does not count as a local connection.

What happens if we cannot relieve your homelessness - The Main Duty

If at the end of the Relief Duty you have still not secured accommodation, then the Council will consider whether any longer term duty to accommodate you under the law on homelessness is owed to you and your family. This is known as the Main Duty. At this stage the Council will make further inquiries so as to decide whether you:

  • are eligible for assistance
  • are homeless
  • have a local connection
  • are in a priority need group
  • became homeless unintentionally

Depending on the outcome of the inquiries, the Council may have a duty to provide you with settled accommodation under the Main Duty.

Will the Council provide me with emergency accommodation if I am homeless?

If at the Relief Stage you are eligible for assistance, the Council will then decide whether it believes that you are in a priority need group. If you are in a priority need group then the Council will be under a duty to provide you with emergency accommodation throughout the Relief Duty. If the Council does not believe that you are in a priority need group, you will not be provided with emergency accommodation, and you will need to make your own arrangements.

Like most other councils, we source emergency accommodation as and when it is required, and it cannot be 'pre-booked'. Emergency accommodation is very expensive, and there is significant local demand for this type of accommodation locally because of our proximity to outer London. This means that whilst we will always aim to keep you in Spelthorne, you could be offered emergency in surrounding boroughs like Slough and Hounslow. Emergency accommodation is not free, and you will be required to pay towards the cost of it through a weekly charge. We may require you to move to alternative accommodation for a variety of reasons - for example, you may have initially been provided with accommodation which is adapted for a disabled applicant which wasn't required at the time, but is now required for that use.

Will the Council provide me with settled accommodation?

If we accept that we owe you a Prevention, Relief, or Main Duty, we will work with you to help you to find settled accommodation. This will usually be accommodation in the private sector. You will be required under your Personal Housing Plan to continuously look for accommodation for your household.

When accommodation in the private sector has been identified, we will assess the accommodation for either of our two private rent schemes:

  • Spelthorne Rent Assure
  • Spelthorne Rent Deposit Scheme

The Prevention and Relief duties can be discharged into any suitable accommodation which has a reasonable prospect of lasting at least six months. This can include staying with family and friends, a room in a shared house, or supported accommodation.

The Council has no housing stock. All affordable housing is owned by housing associations. Please see our Affordable Housing Options page for further information. Given the shortage of accommodation and the extreme demand for the few vacancies which arise each year, it is not likely that you will be offered social housing. The Council's first priority will be to help you to find accommodation in the private sector.

With all types of accommodation offered to prevent or relieve your homelessness, the Council will do its best to meet reasonable preferences about the location of the accommodation, however affordable housing is scarce and opportunities do not necessarily arise in the right place at the right time. Spelthorne is a small borough, with good transport links throughout. We therefore consider it reasonable for homeless households to consider all areas of the Borough to live, even where this may involve commuting to/from places of employment, education, training, or family. If the Council accepts a duty to help you to secure accommodation, you may be directly nominated to a property in discharge of that duty.

What are the priority need groups?

Priority need groups are typically:

  • families with dependent children
  • households where a member of the household is pregnant
  • households with an older / frail applicant
  • people who are otherwise considered by the Council to be vulnerable, for example someone with a physical disability
  • people who have become homeless following an emergency, such as a flood or fire

You may also be considered to be in priority need if the Council considers you to be vulnerable as a result of:

  • you having to leave your home because of violence and harassment
  • you having been in care
  • you having served in the armed forces
  • you having been in a young offenders' institute or prison in the past

Priority need is a complex area of housing law, and so you are not automatically priority need if you fall into one of these categories.

Your case officer will be able to answer any questions which you have, and explain to you the decision they make on whether or not they have reason to believe that you are in a priority need group.

What is intentional homelessness?

If you are still homeless at the end of the Relief Duty and the Council has found that you are in priority need then it will consider whether you are intentionally homeless. This is when it is believed that you are homeless because of something that you have deliberately done, or failed to do, for example knowingly not paid your rent to your landlord, or failing to act on our advice which would have prevented you from becoming homeless.

Being intentionally homeless does not necessarily mean that you wanted to be homeless.

If the Council assesses that you are intentionally homeless, even if you are in a priority group, you will only be offered emergency accommodation for long enough to give you time to find something else.

Intentional homelessness is a complex area of housing law, and the outcome is heavily influenced on your individual circumstances. Your case officer will be able to answer any questions which you have, and explain to you the decision they make on whether or not they have reason to believe that you are homeless intentionally.

What counts as a local connection?

The definition of a local connection to an area is defined in law, although we also apply statutory guidance and case law when deciding whether or not someone has a local connection to Spelthorne. There are different rules for local connection under homelessness legislation and local connection for joining the Housing Register not as a homeless person. For information on our local connection criteria on the Housing Register, please refer to our Icon for pdf Housing Allocations Policy [417.21KB].

Generally, you will have a local connection to Spelthorne if you fall into at least one of these categories:

  • residence in Spelthorne. Under the Local Authority Agreement, residence is defined as a continuous period of six months during the past twelve months, or a continuous period of three years during the past five years. This must be 'residence of choice', which means that periods of imprisonment or detention do not count
  • employment in Spelthorne. This must be current employment actually within Spelthorne - a head office base in Spelthorne is not sufficient. The employment must not be casual work of a short duration
  • family association in Spelthorne. Under the Local Authority Agreement, a qualifying family association is defined normally as parents, adult children, brothers or sisters, who have lived in Spelthorne for at least the past five years continuously. We will need to take into account the actual closeness of the relationship with the family association. Dependent children do not qualify
  • care leavers where Surrey County Council were the relevant social services authority
    • a 'former relevant child' will have a local connection until their 21st birthday, or until an agreed course of education is completed (whichever is later)
    • any other care leaver will have a local connection if they were normally resident in Surrey for a continuous period of two years, at least some of which fell before their 16th birthday. This connection lasts until their 21st birthday
    • as Surrey is a non-unitary authority, a care leaver has a local connection to all of Surrey, regardless of which borough they resided in whilst in care
  • any other special circumstances. This will be fact-specific on each case, but can include situations where there is a specific need to be near specialist medical or support services only available in Spelthorne. This is within the absolute discretion of the Council

Where someone approaches us for homelessness advice and assistance and we cannot establish a local connection to Spelthorne, we can in certain circumstances refer the applicant to where they do have a local connection. A specific exception to this is where the applicant is at risk of violence where they do have a local connection.

Where can I get independent advice?

For more information on the duties of local authorities, please see the information pages on the Shelter website. Shelter are an independent charity who support people experiencing problems with their accommodation, including homelessness.

You may also wish to contact the local Citizens Advice Runnymede and Spelthorne.

Help for younger people

Surrey County Council Family Support Service offers support to young people and their families, and can help young people if they:

  • are not safe
  • have been told to leave their current accommodation
  • have a broken relationship with their parents

If you are a young person, aged 16 or 17, in need of help with housing, you should the Youth Homelessness Prevention Service:

How to report someone sleeping rough

We welcome any information that helps us to help those who need it. If you see a person you believe may be sleeping rough you can tell us by using Streetlink, an independent organisation which manages referrals of rough sleepers to organisations who can help. If the person needs urgent medical attention, or you believe they are under 18 years of age please call 999, rather than referring to Streetlink.

Report a rough sleeper

We will not be able to provide you with any detailed feedback on your referral, however we do review all referrals and do check locations where rough sleepers have been seen, so that we can offer support.

Help for homeowners who are threatened with homelessness

If you are having problems paying your mortgage, you must act quickly to avoid falling into debt.

The Citizens Advice debt and money page have a wide range of independent information to support you, including information on what your mortgage provider must do before it can request a possession hearing at court, as well as information on what financial support is available to you if you have a mortgage and you are in receipt of benefits. You may wish to seek specialist independent advice from Citizens Advice.

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